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Sometimes, a writer inadvertently creates an Alternate History, which causes problems when referencing later events. The reason? Real time has simply progressed beyond the fictional events. Adventure thrillers are especially vulnerable to this, as they are often written Twenty Minutes Into the Future. Sometimes, the writer will refer to later events such as 9-11, In Spite of a Nail. In other cases, what was a series of adventure novels experiences a Genre Shift and becomes some kind of science-fiction or true Alternate History.

The science-fiction version is a special case, where dates or rates of technological advance become invalidated by the march of time.

The title comes from a famous newspaper headline. The Chicago Tribune printed the predicted winner of the 1948 presidential election on its front page. By morning, the headline was proven wrong.

See The Great Politics Mess-Up for a particularly frequently encountered example.

Examples of Dewey Defeats Truman include:


  • 24. Season 1 was written and filmed pre-9/11 but was set in 2004. By the second season, 9/11 had happened, and the Department of Homeland Security suddenly existed when it hadn't before.
  • Deliberately spoofed in More Information Than You Require, which is apparently set in some kind of Alternate History where, among other things, Dewey Defeats Truman.
  • Tom Clancy's "Ryanverse" gradually developed from a series of "Well, it could have happened in real life" techno-thrillers into a full-blown Alternate History.
  • Lord of the Flies features a nuclear war breaking out sometime in the late 1950s, making it this trope if you block out all the heavy handed symbolism.
  • Sometimes Never a Fable For Supermen has a nuclear war where there shouldn't have been, though Roald Dahl is just looking for a convienient time to kill humanity.
  • Ironically, the title of this article and the accompanying photo are somewhat of an aversion. The initial run was immediately intercepted and destroyed, but not before one of Truman's cronies got a hold of one, providing for the famous photo op.
    • The fact that the Tribune was an arch-Republican paper hostile to Truman didn't help matters any.

Science-fiction examples:

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey.
    • And now, its sequel, 2010.
      • Someone needs to set an alarm to come back and edit this page in 51 years.
    • All of the Space Odyssey series has already been invalidated this way, one way or another. For example, the first three books all feature a still-existing USSR; the backstory of 2061 involves a revolution in South Africa in the 2030s which overthrows the apartheid regime; then of course there's the invention of HAL...
  • Space: 1999, likewise.
  • Isaac Asimov's novels have the inverse, with Ridiculously-Human Robots, but no personal computers and (in most novels) even no television.
  • Anything that doesn't have The Internet.
  • Larry Niven's Known Space has humanity midway through colonizing the solar system and beginning to get slowboats to nearby habitable systems ready by this point in its history, as well as widespread death penalties to force organ donation.
  • Star Trek initially had the Eugenics Wars occurring in the 1990s.
    • There were a couple attempts to fix this one--later there was a claim that it actually happened later sometime, while a series of books suggested that they were "secret wars" where the actual historical events were being manipulated from behind the scenes.
  • 1984 predicts a decidedly dytopian future that did not come to pass.
    • Although it did predict iPods and flatscreen TVs.
    • And the NSA's warrant-less surveillance of everything on the internet.
    • It wasn't specifically said that the book takes place in 1984 (Winston explicitly says he's not sure what year it really' is) - Orwell simply flipped the last two digits of the year it was published (1948). The book was originally going to be called "The Last Man in Britain"; a trace of this remains when O'Brien tells Winston that "if you are a man, then you are the last man".